Probably one of the most common questions I get: “How do I brand my business?”. And I’m about to get real blunt with you in this one!
1. Be as different as possible
SERIOUSLY. Take a chance, and be something that’s different.
Be different, be interesting, be GREAT at what you do.
I know, we have this innate urge to just copy what works. We think we’re being unique, but when comparing what we do to every other business like ours out there, nothing stands out. There’s nothing special about your ads, your pictures, your videos.
Sometimes I think there’s just too much info out there. You can read a bunch of blog articles on branding and they’ll all tell you to be “unique”. The plain truth is this: you have to take a fucking risk.
And I’m saying this out of my own experience. When I decided to offer my coaching services, the most important first step in my branding was to create a blog that was a genuine reflection of my voice. I’ve always been known as someone who wrote openly and honestly. That’s part of my own branding. But, I haven’t finished the visual aspect of it yet. There’s no logo, no template. But that’s ok. It’s part of a plan. Don’t have a logo yet? Use a placeholder! Here’s why…
2. You need to start somewhere.
I guarantee you, most people don’t figure out their brand right from the start, and most people don’t start because they think they need to know what their brand is, first. That’s just a form of procrastination.
You have to start somewhere. And it’ll take some testing to get a good feeling for who, and what you want to present to the world.
Most people will have the urge to try to be everything to everyone, but that’s a terrible approach. Eventually, you learn to niche down. Eventually, you end up figuring out that who you are as a person really needs to influence your business. In other words, whatever it is that makes you quirky might work really well in your own business’ branding.
Branding can also be influenced by what you’re really good at. So, just start your business and then start taking notice of the things that you’re doing that might actually stand out. Listen to the feedback from your customers. They might comment about how great your service was. They might keep commenting about a specific product of yours that stands out. Listen really well.
Just start somewhere. It might take time to get the guts to niche down, or to create content that really stands out.
When it comes to your content, pay attention to your tone, it might give you clues. You might discover that you have a knack for being transparent with people. You might discover that your clever copywriting is getting a lot of shares. All of that stuff will inform your future brand.
3. Your brand might evolve.
In fact, I’d say that your brand WILL evolve over time. Again, as you work your way through some challenges, you’ll start to notice who’s paying attention. You’ll start to discover what’s working and what isn’t.
A brand can change, it’s not set in stone. You can make it as fluid as you want, as long as you’re not confusing people. What’s more important is that you figure out your brand’s values, and then build out from there.
4. Look around: learn from others.
A friend of mine travelled to Miami a while ago to get a tattoo done by a tattoo artist who specialized in minimalist designs. That’s all he did. Very simple line work, very delicate designs.
I might not remember his name, but if I saw one of his designs somewhere, I’d know right away it was done by him. That’s a brand that works.
Who else do you know who does this? Do you know of any other businesses that offer unique services, or who have memorable brands? What small businesses stand out near you? Have you done any online searches for examples?
5. Would you notice your business?
To me, branding is about standing out. It’s also about being authentic to yourself, and to your business idea. So, if you had a lineup of ads created by five businesses just like yours, would you notice your own business, or would it look like everyone else’s?
If you had a storefront, what would it look like? I asked myself this question recently, and concluded that my storefront would have 3D sculptures coming out of the walls and a bizarrely structured roof and inside, it would be sofas for meetings, not tables and desks. If you looked at my store from Google satellite view, you’d be able to spot it right away.
It should be the same online. If someone glanced at your Instagram account for 3 seconds, would they be able to discern what your brand is?
5. Would you buy from your business?
Ok, so branding is definitely about standing out. But, it’s also about being great to deal with! You can be as wacky as you want to get people’s attention, but are you a nightmare to deal with? Would you buy from your own business? Are you easy to reach, or is your business inbox filling up with unanswered emails?
Make sure that whatever branding appearance you choose can be backed up by good old fashioned customer service. Make sure what you’re offering is high quality. Boring brands can sink a business, but a pretentious one is just as worse.
Be clever, be unique, but also, be great to your customers. Make that the backbone of your brand.
Branding doesn’t happen overnight.
Of course, some people defy that rule. They come up with a great idea, they implement it, and they’re successful right away. There are always outliers. But for the average business owner, they suck at branding. Because standing out is actually scary. I mean, there’s a reason we all dress the same way, right?
Unless you live in NYC and you happen to have an eccentric personality, chances are, you’re wearing more or less the same clothes as the majority of the population. Thing is, that doesn’t usually work well for businesses, especially online!
If you want to get client or customers online, you’ve gotta have a brand that stands out. That might mean being perceived as wacky, or annoying, or egotistical. Look, you can’t please everyone. What you want is the attention of people that want to buy your stuff. So, get their attention. Be bold.
And, on the flip side…
What if the industry you’re in is already full of bold, and wacky people? What if you’re trying to compete in a space that’s already full of innovative brands? Well, maybe you could be boring!
This is something I’ve seen in the tech industry as a competitive advantage. If you’re in a space dominated by cowboy coders, why not brand yourself as the boring, but reliable software company?
Branding is about finding that space where you can flourish and be different from the rest. It’s not always about being flashy. So, keep that in mind. Find your space, and own it.